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Dia de Los Reyes moves outdoors

ArtsQuest hosted a Jan. 3 drive-thru Dia de Los Tres Reyes, also known as Three Kings Day. The weather, as so often happened this season, was fickle. The morning brought unexpected snow. Thankfully, the air warmed in the afternoon, and the sky cleared for the event.

Three tents housed the kings, Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar, and the toys for the children. Heaters were provided to keep the volunteers warm.

At the entrance to the parking lot, volunteers checked families in as they arrived in their cars. Cones in the lot guided cars to the tents. Each king had gifts for three age groups up to age 12.

Vehicles were directed to an available tent. Three volunteers worked in each tent. The king would approach the vehicle, then let the volunteers know what age group(s) toys were needed. The volunteers would gather the toys and packets. Then the king would deliver the toys and packets to the vehicle.

Along with the toys, information about Dia de los Tres Reyes was distributed. Dia de los Tres Reyes is celebrated Jan. 6 in Latin America, and in Puerto Rico, the holiday has more prominence than Christmas, at least where gift giving is concerned. In many Christian cultures, Jan. 6 is Epiphany Day, but in Eastern Orthodox churches, it is Christmas Day.

Before Christmas, ArtsQuest asks for donations of toys for the event. In a non-pandemic year, the event would take place inside the ArtsQuest building with live entertainment, crafts and food. The kings would process into the building with much fanfare, sometimes accompanied by a camel.

The volunteers expressed wistful feelings for the indoor events, but it was clear they were delighted to see the hundreds of children who came to the drive through event.

“Some of these kids don’t get much for Christmas,” said volunteer Rhonda Senior.

The event was coordinated by ArtsQuest’s Latino Advisory Commitee, and sponsored by PPL Corporation, Carlos and Carol Anne Lopez, West Side Hammer, and MEGA radio. The three kings costumes are on loan from designer Pamela Ptak, who appeared on Season 7 of Project Runway. Holiday music was provided by MEGA radio.

At this time of year, toys are often on sale. Please consider picking up a toy or two for next year’s event if you are able. For more information on Dia de Los Tres Reyes Matos and other ArtsQuest events, visit www.Artsquest.org.

PRESS PHOTOS BY LANI GOINS Kings Gaspar, in purple, played by Ramon Rodriguez, and King Melchior, played by Nelson Matos, warm their hands at the standing heater. The MEGA radio music van can be seen in the background. MEGA provided music for the event.
King Gaspar, played by Ramon Rodriguez, waves to a child after giving gifts to her and her siblings.
King Melchior, (Nelson Matos) presents gifts to a family in their vehicle.
Volunteers Mary Lou Straka and Rhona Senior work in King Gaspar's tent. The tables are filled with toys for the children, arranged by age group.
King Baltazar, played by William Citron.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LANI GOINS King Melchior (Nelson Matos) and his queen (Carmen Matos) stand before his tent, while they and other Artsquest volunteers wait for cars to start arriving.